Ordering Seeds and Plants

By Charlie Nardozzi

One of my end-of-the-year rituals is to sit down with seed and plant catalogs and place my order for the next year. It’s a fun project right after all the hustle and bustle of the holidays. I’m a bit old fashioned, so I like to spread out the printed seed and plant catalogs on the floor and leaf through each one, selecting new varieties to try and ordering new packets of tried-and-true varieties. Of course, I realize most seed and plant catalogs are also on-line (some without even a printed catalog anymore), so after my first pass through the print catalogs, I start perusing the on-line versions. Often there will be more information about the variety on-line and sometimes other photos. One word of caution, though — watch the photos. Pictures can make a fruit or vegetable look larger, more beautiful and more colorful that it really is. It’s really eye candy!

While each gardener probably has his or her own system for ordering seeds and plants, I thought it would be helpful to highlight some important points about buying vegetable seeds, fruit trees, and berry bushes. Hopefully these ideas will ring true for you and help you not over-order or order the wrong variety for your climate. Feel free to email me with any other tips you might have, including a favorite catalog company.

Ordering Vegetable Seeds

You certainly can wait until spring and buy your vegetable and herb seeds from the local garden center. Many have a great selection of varieties from a number of different seed companies. Or if you’re only growing a small garden, buy transplants instead.

However, buying seeds from a catalog is fun and gives you several advantages. There is a wider selection of varieties available when ordering seed through catalogs. Do you want an orange-colored eggplant or golden colored snow pea? Go to the seed catalogs. If you’re looking for a particular variety with disease resistance, colorful fruits, unusual growth habits, or special flavor, you’re more likely to find it in a catalog. For gardeners with lots of space and growing large gardens, buying seeds via a catalog is often cheaper, too. You can shop around for the best price for that variety, and often when buying it in larger quantities, you can get a discount. But before buying everything in sight, inventory what you have left from last year. If stored properly, those lettuce, tomato and pepper seeds in opened packets can still germinate and grow fine.

There are a few things to keep in mind when buying seeds from a catalog. If you have a garden that is strictly organic, biodynamic, or you only grow heirlooms, you may want to look for seed companies specializing in those types of varieties. While many companies now offer organic seeds and heirloom varieties, bio-dynamically raised seed is a little harder to find. Also, look for a seed company that has signed the Safe Seed Pledge. This is a pledge that the seed company will not knowingly buy or sell any seed variety that has been genetically modified.

While shopping around for the best price for your specific variety is easy to do on-line, consider supporting regional seed companies. It’s not just about supporting smaller seed companies in your geographic area. Many regional seed companies will have trial grounds and grow out new varieties before offering them to their customers. Since you are in the same geographic area, chances are if the variety grows well in their trails, it should grow well in your garden. This is particularly true with heirloom varieties. Many heirlooms were grown in specific regions of the country for generations. Because they are regionally adapted, they may not grow well for you if you don’t live in that region. Let the seed company trial it, and maybe even save the seed a few years, to develop a version that is adapted to your climate.

Check out seed companies that offer smaller sized packets of seed as well. These are great for trying new varieties. They are less expensive and you only get a few seeds to fit in your garden.

Finally, consider ordering seeds from only a few companies. This may save you money in shipping costs.

Ordering Fruit Trees & Berries

Much of the same thinking for ordering vegetable seeds applies to ordering fruit trees and berry bushes. You’ll get a broader variety ordering through the mail and it will be less expensive, especially if you’re planting a small orchard or large berry patch. If you just need a few bushes or trees, it’s simpler to shop at your local garden center.

Pay particularly close attention to hardiness zones for the varieties you are choosing. Nurseries can sometimes be generous with rating the cold hardiness of plants. I like to err on the conservative side. If the catalog says a fruit tree is hardy to USDA zone 5, check out other sources on the Internet to verify that zone designation. Also, look for varieties that have regional adaptations. Find out what diseases are prevalent in your area. Some varieties are disease resistant, which may be important in your area of the country. I’m growing pears and I know in the Northeast fire blight disease is a big problem, so I grow resistant varieties.

Order early. Many times nurseries run out of specialty varieties of fruit trees or berry bushes. You can order in January and the nurseries won’t ship the bare root stock until the last frost date for your region, so there’s no need to worry you’ll get your plants too soon. Many nurseries stop shipping once trees and bushes break bud, so you may have to wait until the fall bare root shipping season if you don’t order in time in the spring.

If you are in a hurry for fruit, select larger-sized versions of your variety of choice. It’s more expensive to buy older trees, but they will fruit sooner.

Look for a guarantee. Most fruit tree and berry nurseries will offer a one-year guarantee with their plants. Check out garden watchdog sites and gardening forums to make sure that a company honors its guarantees and is a good one to work with. Gardeners are usually more than willing to share their experiences about plant companies.

Keep the trees growing strong each year by applying a balanced fertilizer each spring and keeping the soil mulched and watered.


To Feed Your Family

By InGardens

I always perspective a garden as if it were a business.  Like a business, there is a lot of up-front investment and it is tough to make adult your income a initial year or even second year for that matter.  This is generally loyal for enclosure gardens given they cost some-more to set up.  we simply spent some-more than a hundred dollars on things such as, GB Organic Blue Ribbon brew potting soil, Baby Bu’s Biodynamic Blend potting soil, Jobe’s organic manure spikes, and 12 in. pots, and unequivocally vast block containers. There is also a certain volume of impotent investigation that needs to be supposed as a cost of doing business.  But this embellishment of a business reflects mercantile reality. Numerous sources from biography articles and a web uncover a poignant lapse on investment presumption a value of your time spent in a garden is not counted. For example, the GRS garden project. showed a personal investment of $153.28 for a year 2011 and a lapse on investment of $657.32 in a value of a furnish from one sole person’s garden. Academic investigate into a doubt shows an normal lapse of about 3-fold as is reported in a Journal of Extension. This investigate also shows that some crops furnish a aloft lapse on investment for home gardeners. In particular, tomato, eggplant, peas, and salad greens offer some of a tip lapse on investment for home gardeners in terms of a value of a furnish entrance from a garden vs. a cost of reserve for a garden.

Since enclosure gardens cost some-more to set up, it creates clarity to concentration on a many profitable crops that will revoke your furnish check during a grocery store as many as possible.  we concentration on salad greens in late winter and early open as good as snap peas in my enclosure gardens. This arrangement has other advantages besides a lapse on investment.  Growing salad greens on a second building petrify patio offers vast advantages over a unchanging garden in a place such as Oregon where a slugs will literally grow several inches long. we have enjoyed salad greens totally inexperienced by slugs ever given we changed my salad greens to a balcony. Similarly, my carrot seedlings were totally wiped out by slugs in a unchanging garden though are multiplying in my enclosure garden, and my pea seedlings were badly shop-worn by slugs in a unchanging garden though are utterly happy in my enclosure gardens.

After perplexing many opposite varieties of snap pea, a best we have come opposite are a ‘Green Beauty Vine’ peas bred and sole by Peace Seedlings of Corvallis, Oregon. we consider they kick out customary types, such as ‘Sugar Ann’.  They are a sum package of flavor, tenderness, some sweetness, and visible appeal.  The pods are tasty proposal or easily cooked. It turns out that they do utterly good in enclosure gardens if they are given a pot during slightest 12” in hole (5 gallons) with no some-more than 4 seeds planted in one pot.  They also need a vast support such as 6 feet bamboo sticks.  They can be started in late winter here in Oregon and will continue producing food for your family during slightest until July.  (Seed germination can be an emanate in late winter, so be certain to origin your seeds indoors before planting them.) Considering a cost of sugarine snap peas during a store and a fact that we can’t buy anything as good as a ‘Green Beauty Vine’ during a store, it is an investment good value making.

I have attempted a series of varieties of spinach in my enclosure gardens, including several open pollinated forms and a integrate hybrid types. I, of course, attempted a aged stand-by open pollinated type, ‘Bloomsdale Long Standing’ as good as ‘Monster of Viroflay’, ‘Tyee’ F1, ‘Giant Noble’, ‘Giant Winter’, ‘Bordeaux’ F1, and ‘Fiorana’ F1. The one that has achieved best in a 3 years that we have been contrast spinach greens in containers has been a ‘Olympia Hybrid’ F1. Its categorical advantage seems to be faster expansion of tender, tasty leaves. But it generally seems improved blending and some-more powerful than other types. That said, my trialing was not scientific. The best accumulation could be something else entirely. The accumulation was creatively grown by Alf Christianson Seed Co of Washing state, and a name ‘Olympia’ might presumably impute to a Olympic peninsula of Washington State.

I also grow bok choy, mustard greens, and lettuce greens in my containers. A good mustard immature from High Mowing Seeds is ‘Ruby Streaks’, that adds some color, variety, and a bit of piquancy to a salad mix. ‘Mei Qing’ F1 Pac Choi from Johnny’s Seeds has finished good in my enclosure gardens though we haven’t attempted adequate varieties to make any comparison. Lately we have been flourishing ‘Marvielle of Four Seasons’ lettuce utterly a bit though we can’t contend it is unequivocally any improved than other varieties. we once got giveaway lettuce plants of a dim red lettuce that we subsequently saved a seed from. we consider it is a Frank Morton grown accumulation from Wild Garden Seeds, though we never did get a accumulation name. This unnamed red accumulation is unequivocally well-developed for palatable leaves, dim color, and powerful growth. It stands out as one of a best varieties of lettuce we have ever grown, and utterly higher to store bought lettuce.

As open ends and summer starts, we switch over to tomatoes. we have finished a lot of investigation with tomato varieties for enclosure gardening. Overall, we have done some elementary observations about flourishing tomatoes in containers.  One, there is such a thing as a accumulation that is good blending to containers as against to varieties that are improved blending to a garden proper. Another regard is that a vast plant that has outgrown a enclosure will constantly humour from a miss of water. we once grew tomatoes in containers that were too little (1 to 2 gallons) and we was watering them, literally, 2 to 3 times per day.  There seems to be a elementary attribute here:  bigger containers outcome in reduction drought highlight and a reduced watering burden.  There also seems to be a relationship, regardless of watering, between smaller pots and smaller yields.  With adequate water, a tomato will furnish fruit in a unequivocally little pot of reduction than a gallon, though a furnish will be one or dual tiny tomatoes.  With a vast adequate container, any tomato accumulation can be grown in a pot, though some varieties will need a super-sized half tub containers. For good blending tomato varieties, a 5 gallon pot (12 inches diameter) should be sufficient. It should also be kept in mind that tomatoes are miserly for fertilizer. we give them Jobe’s organic manure spikes mid-season or as required if expansion is negligence and a leaves start to spin yellow from a miss of nitrogen. we also start them out with a good organic manure when we transplant them into a containers.

Weather Worries

The continue in my area cycles behind and onward in March, April, and May (even June) between comfortable spells in that tomatoes are happy to grow and cold, stormy spells that tomatoes can customarily endure as prolonged as it is not next freezing. One thing we have found is that enclosure gardening of tomatoes has a few fundamental advantages for early deteriorate production. If there is a remarkable cold spell, it is easy to move in a containers into a kitchen for a night. The statistical final ice in my area is May 11, though we frequently risk planting tomatoes before this day as prolonged as a extended foresee shows good continue in Apr and my plants are in containers. In addition, many early varieties tend to be smaller, determinate plants that are naturally good matched to containers. we consider there is also one or dual degrees of regard that naturally radiates from a concrete and steel of a building all night long. we have noticed, for instance, my patio thermometer will uncover a heat above freezing, nonetheless a cars next me will have frost.  we am perplexing out several early varieties this year in containers, including ‘Glacier’, ‘Siberian’, ‘Gundula’, ‘Uralskiy’, and ‘Jagodka’.  The latter 3 are varieties from Adaptive Seeds.  But a accumulation that is proven and tested for me is ‘Cherry Punch’ F1 from Burpee Seed Co.  It is a comparatively early, middle sized indistinct plant. It is really good blending to containers and performs as good or improved in containers as against to garden soil. It has 30 percent some-more vitamin C and 40 percent some-more lycopene than an normal tomato according to a Burpee website. It is tough, vigorous, and unstoppable.  we have grown this accumulation for several years and we find it to be one of a essential varieties in my garden each singular year. we customarily have teenager criticisms of a variety.  In 2012, my ‘Cherry Punch’ plants suffered some-more from a serious breeze charge than other tomato varieties with some-more bend breakage.  Another teenager critique is that it is tough to collect a tomatoes but causing little tears to a fruit.  This never worried me given we customarily eat them immediately or within a day or two.

There is something else about enclosure gardens that should be mentioned. It is good to have healthy finger food right outward a door.  Snap peas and cherry tomatoes are best true from a garden and a lettuce never has a possibility to shrivel when it is so tighten by.

Agritourism Stop

By Deborah R. Huso

Julie Haushalter came to start a lavender farm on her 25-acre property near Weyers Cave, Virginia, quite by accident. “The lavender farm came about as a result of life,” she says about the now locally famous White Oak Lavender Farm. Before starting the farm, Haushalter had spent her career as a special needs teacher, then a school administrator, and then a campus pastor at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. As she watched others struggle with stressful life events, and she worked to cope with her own sister’s death from cancer, Haushalter began looking for natural ways to soothe life’s trials and anxieties.

She ultimately turned to the healing properties of lavender, which clinical trials have shown to be effective in calming stress. Haushalter says she knew the scent of lavender was not a cure-all, but it was indeed helpful in reducing anxiety levels in people dealing with grief and trauma.

“If someone can lower anxiety,” she says, “he or she can make better decisions in the moment.”

Haushalter decided to start growing some lavender of her own, and she began with 150 plants, selling the harvested buds, as well as products she made from lavender, at the nearby Harrisonburg Farmers’ Market. The business took off like wildfire, leading Haushalter to give up her day job and start growing and selling lavender to the public full time about six years ago.

She now grows 9,000 lavender plants in many varieties, hires area college students to help with harvests, and has a retail shop right on the farm.

“Some of the products in our store are made completely from scratch,” Haushalter says, “and we do all of our own bottling and labeling here.”

While it all sounds wonderfully romantic, you might be wondering how she pulled off this dreamily scented career choice. Well, it hasn’t been easy.

Harvest advice

Currently, White Oak Lavender Farm grows 30 varieties of the plant, which are harvested for the scents and oil of their flower bud.

Haushalter advises applying fabric to lavender when planting, to reduce weed invasion.

“Once you’ve prepared the soil, however, it’s a full-sunshine, drought-tolerant, pH 7 to 71⁄2 plant that likes good drainage,” she says. Haushalter quickly learned when she started growing lavender to plant the individual plants farther apart to keep air moving around them. She recommends 3 to 5 feet apart.

When harvesting, timing is everything. Haushalter says that if you’re growing lavender for dried bundles, you should harvest when the first couple of flowers have bloomed on the stem, because flowers at full bloom will drop right off the stems after drying.

If harvesting for buds, she advises harvesting when the plants present one-quarter to one-half flowering. In the case of essential oil, however, the best time to harvest is actually once half the flowers on the stems have withered, as that’s when oil is likely at its peak.

Haushalter distills her own lavender on site, using a contraption that resembles a whiskey still. She says it takes about half an hour to obtain the best essential oil through straight steam distillation. The steam essentially disrupts oil membranes in the lavender plant to release the essential oil. The steam then carries the oil into a condenser where it reliquefies, leading the light essential oil to float on top. Haushalter or one of her employees then separates the oil and water. The water portion is referred to as hydrosol or floral water, which can be used to create linen or body sprays, and even facial toners.

When harvest time comes around, Haushalter and her employees take the plants to the drying and debudding shed. Staff members harvest everything by hand. Not long ago they also debudded by hand, rolling the plants in their palms, letting them drop into barrels, and then sifting. Haushalter now has a debudding machine, though, which she says has turned two and a half weeks of work into a two-hour effort.

She sells leftover stems to another area farm family, which packages the stems with poultry feather absorbents for cleaning up chemical spills and masking the odor of the feathers. Haushalter tries to run as sustainable an operation as possible. Even the retail plants she sells are packaged in plastic made from lavender stems and feathers.


Selling products is only a small portion of White Oak’s value-added revenue. In order to teach people how to use lavender, Haushalter has started workshops and home parties where she or a member of her staff teaches others how to make lavender-infused products, from soaps to jellies.

“Part of what we want people to experience is how you use lavender,” Haushalter says. Hence, the home party business. She’s even bringing in consultants to help with the parties. “That’s our newest way to keep the message with the product,” she says.

Meanwhile, her agritourism efforts have paid off, too, despite a few early discussions with neighbors over permits and visitor traffic.

“Agritourism is part of our identity. Right from the beginning, we were curious about how lavender grew, and a lot of our work is education.”

She offers farm tours daily for $8 per person, access to the farm discovery area (with its goats, ducks, turkeys and chickens) for $3 per person, and she also hosts workshops on wand-making and aromatherapy every Friday. White Oak Lavender Farm provides custom workshops to groups as well.

Plant for Success

With so many varieties of lavender available, it’s no easy task figuring out which type(s) to grow. Overall, it’s an incredibly hardy plant, but it does require good drainage. Here are some of Haushalter’s recommendations based on various uses.

Angustifolia, also known as English lavender, is one of the hardiest varieties, being drought- as well as cold-tolerant while emitting a heady fragrance. It’s probably one of the most common ornamental varieties. Its buds can be dried for herbal teas, and its oil is commonly used in massage oils and lotions.

Provence is another popular variety, highly fragrant and long-blooming. It is harvested mainly for its buds, which are edible, as well as essential oil. Haushalter cautions against planting it at altitudes above 1,600 feet, however, as it is too tender for a vertical climate.

Grosso is a hybrid of cold-tolerant English lavender and heat-tolerant Portuguese lavender. It is widely considered the best plant for commercial-level production of essential oil.

Royal Velvet is small- to medium-size with deep purple blooms, harvested mainly for culinary uses.

While the life cycle of any given lavender plant varies with the variety, it’s a good rule of thumb with all plants to cut back faded flower stems to promote more vigorous growth.

Want to find out more? Learn five great uses of aromatic lavender, for bothe the experienced grower and the greenhorn.

A Special Place to Grow

By The National Garden Bureau

A Child’s Garden – a Special Place to Grow

Originally published June 1992

“What’s best for the environment?” is often asked these days. Well, what’s best for the environment is teaching our children respect and concern for nature. One way to start this training early, and have some fun doing it, is a child’s garden. The immediate and long-term benefits of encouraging a child to plant his or her own garden are enormous.

Through school and the media, many youngsters, even preschoolers, are already very aware of nature and ecology. The garden is an excellent place to reinforce what they have heard and learned and a great place to encourage their creativity and self-discipline. They will be exposed to the beauty of Nature, a beauty they will help nurture, and through growing vegetables they may learn a degree of self-sufficiency. A childhood start on understanding and respecting the environment plants the “seeds” for future responsibilities. We all know it needs to be done, so let’s do it with fun.

Lions and Dragons

Did you ever “snap” the jaws of a snapdragon, or “see” fantastic faces in pansies, or savor the tangy aroma of fresh mint when you crushed some leaves in your hands when you were a child? Whether you did or you didn’t, there are numerous plants that provide their own extra-special sense of fun and learning. Below are a few suggestions. Maybe you have some childhood memories to add.

Some “Fun” Plants to Grow

Calceolaria – called the “”pocketbook” plant, the blooms resemble old-fashioned purses.

Four O-Clocks – Easy to grow from seed, these colorful flowers don’t open until mid-to late afternoon.

Torenia – The “wishbone plant.” Inside the bloom is a small ridge shaped just like a wishbone.

Lunaria – The ‘money plant’ forms disc shaped seedpods that can be easily rubbed and polished to resemble a silvery quarter sized coin.

Scallop Squash – Summer squashes that resemble flying saucers

Impatiens – “Bizzy Lizzy” or “Impatient” plant. The ripe seedpods burst open to scatter seed. Put a fat one in your hand and press lightly for a good tickle when it bursts.

Sweet Peas – Dwarf or climbing, these lovely flowers have the same name as the character in Popeye cartoons. Maybe you should plant it next to the spinach.

Starter Suggestions

A small garden, perhaps no more than 4 feet by 4 feet and planted with a mix of flowers and vegetables, can instill not only an appreciation of Nature, but also provide a place for fun learning activities. Although there is a chance that a child’s garden might not be as neatly tended as a parent’s, give the choicest garden spot you can to the child. Lots of sun and good soil will aid in success. A section of your garden or a separate child’s garden next to yours can make the garden chores a family affair.

Let your child help prepare the garden soil. Dirt can be turned over with a small shovel or trowel, and clumps broken up by hand or by “stomping” on them. Kids love dirt!

Choose easy-to-grow plants and as many different ones as you can get into the small space. Carrots, radishes, lettuces and tomatoes are good vegetable choices. If you have room for the vines, maybe a giant Jack O ‘Lantern or a mini-pumpkin can make the garden experience last a little longer.

For flowers, choose at least some that can be used as cut flowers or decorations for the dinner table or for special “gifts.” Zinnias, marigolds, salvia, and snapdragons are a few recommendations. For something spectacular to a child, plant a few sunflowers, which can range form 2 feet to 10 feet tall. The seeds can be toasted and eaten for a healthy snack, or saved to be put out to feed squirrels or other animals.

Starting from seed is a good learning experience, and starting early indoors in a sunny spot will provide daily “excitement” as a child watches the growth. Small children will find large seeds such as beans and sunflowers easy to handle and plant. Bedding plants too, are an excellent choice for getting started and are good choices for selections such as geraniums, petunias, begonias and many vegetable plants.


Recycling is an important part of our planet’s future, and few activities lend themselves to this as well as gardening does. To grow up to 12 plants you can use a clean egg carton as a seed starter kit. Be sure to punch holes in the bottom of each section for drainage, and use a soilless germinating mix.

Outdoors, small plants can be protected from the weather and hungry animals by cutting the bottom or side out of a milk carton and covering tender plants.

Grass clippings, shredded leaves and vegetable matter can be put into a composting bin to be recycled into composted soil that is very nutritious for plants.

Many communities have active recycling program on a drop-off basis, or as part of their garbage pickup. Instead of just separating recyclable materials for some far-off re-use, using the materials in gardening demonstrates the true meaning of active recycling and may instill the idea of recycling in other ways as well. Less garbage in landfills means more land left for nature.

Garden Anywhere

Don’t despair if you don’t have an outdoor garden plot. Vegetables and flowers can be successfully grown in pots and containers. There are books and online sources available on container growing, and many general gardening books cover the topic as well. A container garden on a balcony, patio or deck can produce a lot of flowers and vegetables, and it often makes the task of weeding simpler.

Getting Personal

Children love something to be their “very own.” Keep your child interested and aware of his or her garden by putting a sign in it that says “Mary’s Garden” (or whatever name is appropriate). For real personalization, make up plant stakes or labels that say “Mary’s beans,” “John’s zinnias,” etc. If more than one child has plants growing in the same garden, this can minimize disputes over whose plants are whose.

If you start from seed, you can use the seed packet stapled to a stake with the child’s name written on it. Bedding plants usually come with a plant tag you might use. Colorful pictures help children imagine what will eventually grow.

Watering and Weeding

Children love to water – particularly at full force of the hose. You will want to remind them that rain usually falls a little more gently and they should imitate the rain. A personalized sprinkling can is a good idea for younger children.

Weeding is another matter. At first, even for adults, it can be difficult to tell small wanted plants from small-unwanted weeds. You may want to let things grow a little before weeding too much. Since children may find weeds as fascinating and as pretty as the chosen plants, a little explanation that the weeds are “little bullies” and want to take too much room and too much food away from the “good” plants may ease the trauma of pulling out some plants.

“Patience is a virtue,” goes an old saying, and the wait for flowers and vegetables to mature can begin to teach the rewards of patience. Watching a garden grow may not be easy: children may want to pull up young carrots and radishes to see if they are “done.” Even if they do pull up a few young plants, they may be far enough along to wash off and give a taste of bigger things to come.

Older Children

Children by age eight or nine may want to be more involved in what plants are grown in their gardens. They might enjoy planning a salad garden that can be harvested and shared with the family at dinnertime, or they might enjoy something special like a garden planted to look like the American Flag.

You may not have to supervise weeding and watering quite as closely, but a wise parent always keeps one of the eyes in the back of the head open.

Watching your child grow

Gardening activities provide an ideal time to really talk to your child. Of course you will want to talk a little about how plants grow, and talk about the birds, insects and worms (kids love worms!) and all that good gardening stuff. But the privacy and quiet of a garden is also an excellent place to just talk about “things” such as school and friends, hopes and dreams. Ask them if they were a plant, what would they tell the gardener?

You’ll be surprised what you can learn in your child’s garden, and your opportunity to hear your child’s thoughts will help you guide their personal growth as well as their gardening growth.

Whether you are in a city, suburb or rural area, the future of the environment is a concern to all. Instilling love, respect and understanding of how nature works and how it affects us all is especially important for the future of our children and the world at large.

And it can all begin in a child’s garden.

Therapeutic Rebellion

By Jerry

It’s The Garden, and I’ll plant what I want to!

I spend a great deal of time in The Garden, and I take what I do very seriously (not that I don’t have a lot of fun). Like many folks these days, our family is on a very tight budget, and as a result, the food our garden produces plays an important role in helping us keep our heads above water. There is no way our family could afford the quantity, quality, or variety of fresh vegetables The Garden provides us if we had to purchase them at the local grocery store.


The Garden serves as an act of rebellion for me. By growing my own food, I cut out the middle man, I get to choose the varieties I grow, and I am feeding my family more healthful food, arguably at a lower cost. Admittedly, The Garden is a small act of defiance, but a person has to start somewhere, right? How, you ask is a garden an act of rebellion? It’s all about taking back control of at least a part of my life, and a step away from the culture of greed and consumerism that is so prevalent in today’s world.



The Garden is good therapy. It helps to cleanse my mind; it makes me happy. How can you not be happy when you are surrounded by the beauty of ripening tomatoes, chirping bluebirds and painted buntings, and the wind rustling in the corn? (BTW, I really like corn.) The Garden is a place to enjoy the wonders of nature such as the setting of the sun and the awe of a spring thunderstorm rumbling across the horizon. The Garden inspires me to focus on the promise of tomorrow and helps me forget any unpleasantness encountered during the day. The Garden is great mentalfloss.



So, get to planting and have a therapeutic rebellion of your own!

Indoor Water Gardens

By Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor

If your space is limited or you just don’t like to make a mess with soil, try growing your garden in water.  It’s also the best solution for anyone who can’t master the art of watering plants properly.

Many foliage plants will grow in water.  This method permits the use of many interesting and unusual containers and allows for flexibility of plant arrangements.  Although growth will be slow, the plants will remain attractive for a long time.

You can use any receptacle that will hold water for the containers for your water garden.  Avoid those made of copper, brass, or lead, however.  Fertilizers can corrode these metals and may cause plant damage.  A dark container will help prevent the formation of algae in the water.

Once you have chosen a container, fill it about three-fourths full of a support material such as florist’s foam (your best choice), crumbled styrofoam, gravel, pearl chips, pebbles, coarse sand, marbles, beads, or any other similar materials.  Use your imagination. A small piece of charcoal or a pinch of powdered charcoal added to the support materials will help prevent the water from turning foul.

Next, prepare a dilute water and fertilizer solution using a water-soluble fertilizer at one-fourth the recommended rate.  Add this solution to the support material.

For plant materials you may use either cuttings or rooted plants.  Be sure to wash all soil off the roots and cut off any dead or decayed material.  Arrange the plant materials in an attractive manner.  Examples of plants suited to water gardens are the Chinese evergreen (Aglaonemas), Dumbcane, English ivy, Philodendrons, Moses-in-a-cradle, Pothos, Wax plant, and Wandering Jew.

Keep the water-fertilizer solution at the proper level by adding more to the container as needed.  Every four to six weeks, replace the nutrient solution.  If green algae becomes a problem, change the water solution more frequently or use an opaque container.

For more information or supplies for growing water gardens, visit your local full garden center.

Heirloom Varieties

By Lawrence Davis- Hollander

Nothing quite says summertime gardening like the strain in your back after spending hours or even minutes stooped over rows of green beans. Whether pole, bush or intermediate, green beans hold a special place where summer gardens account for a significant percentage of dinner table nutrition. And many a youngster learns the finer points of life while snapping beans on the porch or canning the works in the kitchen. String beans are a uniquely American product, making three bean salad more American than apple pie, depending, of course, upon which beans you use.

A wide array of seeds coming from different plant species may be referred to as beans, such as garbanzo beans, fava beans or soybeans. These are old-world species, while “true” beans have their roots in the Americas and belong to the genus Phaseolus. The true bean was at one time classified with Vignas (cultivated legumes), such as the cowpea or the black-eyed pea, another old-world group, which is now considered a separate genus.

Approximately 50 species of beans are found in the Americas, and five domesticated species are cultivated for food. These include P. acutifolius, the Tepary bean, cultivated in the Southwest and Mexico in relatively arid conditions; P. coccineus, the pole bean or scarlet runner bean, originating from Mexico, is typically long vining with large, flat pods and seeds; and P. lunatus, the lima bean, which first originated in South America about 8,000 years ago. Native populations grow limas from the southwest to southern South America in dry conditions.

P. polyanthus, commonly referred to as the botil bean in Mexico, is the most recently domesticated of the beans. It is an older, less-evolved plant and tends to be cultivated in cool, moist tropical climates in Mexico, as well as in South and Central America.

Phaseolus vulgaris originated in both South America and Mexico, and is the most widely grown of the true beans — and the most familiar to us. This species includes black, kidney, pinto, navy or pea beans, Great Northern, cranberry, horticultural (or October) and other beans.

Growing beans beginnings

While not all botanists agree, evidence points to two separate centers of origin for the bean, one in the Andes about 8,000 years ago, and the other more-recent site in the Tehuacan Valley in Mexico, about 4,500 to 7,000 years ago. Collected wild beans have been found in archeological sites from 10,000 years ago in Argentina. Other botanists suggest the beans came from only one of these locations, and then evolved into two distinct domesticates from the two locations.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of bean varieties evolved to yield a wide array of solid-colored and multicolored dry seeds in different sizes and shapes and with varying tastes and uses in cuisine. In addition to dry beans, some varieties yield wonderful edible fruits, botanically known as a pod or legume, or more commonly known as green or string beans. While pods from beans are technically edible, when they have not been selected for this purpose, they are fibrous, unpalatable and largely indigestible. This characterizes most string beans prior to the 19th century.

A few varieties possess “strings” that could be easily removed before cooking, hence the term string beans. It wasn’t until around 1890 that Calvin Keeney of Le Roy, New York, developed the first stringless beans from which most other stringless bean varieties were derived. In other words, while there are heirloom string(less) beans, most are relatively recent in origin.

Typically, string beans have smaller seeds than their dry bean counterparts, in some cases much smaller, while in other varieties you get a reasonable dry bean yield from “string beans.” However, it is probably far more productive to save your mature string bean seeds for replanting next year.

Beans are among the easiest of plants from which to save seed; this is in part due to their cleistogamous flowers — flowers that aren’t readily open to pollinators such as bees. Thus, beans are largely self-pollinating, and the seed you sow is the seed you get back — “largely” being the key word. They can cross-pollinate fairly easily in certain instances. Physical evidence of crossing tends to show in the seed coat coloration the first year. An exception, for example, is when two all-black or all-white beans cross-pollinate. If you separate beans by 20 or 30 feet, you reduce the possibilities of crossing.

There are three basic forms of bean plants: long vining or pole beans; twining, which represents a whole range of intermediate types that may be trained on a pole or are self-supporting and relatively short; and bush beans, which do not throw out any twining shoots and were bred to be more compact and nontwining.

Old favorites

One of my favorite string beans is Black Valentine, introduced in 1897 by Peter Henderson and Co. of New York, a black-seeded variety that yields strong, bushy plants and excellent-tasting green beans with a bit of stringiness. Its ripening period extends over a few weeks — perfect for the home garden, though less suitable for commercial production. I stagger my plantings every two weeks or so and always have them on the table. Even the larger beans are fairly good, although they quickly get tough and can become stringy. The pods mature relatively early in about 50 days. People appreciate their distinct taste, and seeds have become widely available.

If you want to try an old-timey string bean, seek out Red Valentine. It’s a rare American variety dating to 1832 that was quite popular in the early 19th century. The plants are small and the pods have good flavor, although they are somewhat stringy. The seeds are beautifully mottled red, hence its name.

Burpee’s Stringless Green Pod, introduced in 1894 and bred by Calvin N. Keeney, matures earlier and is completely stringless. The pods are borne high on the plant, making them easier to pick, not to mention crisp and flavorful. The brown-seeded bean’s popularity has waned, though it is an excellent string bean and still produced by Burpee.

Peter Henderson introduced Bountiful in 1898, after a $25 prize was offered for the best name for the New Green Bush Bean No. 1. Bountiful was aptly named as it is a heavy yielder with big plants that sometimes topple from heavy rain and wind. Productive over a long period of time, it is one of the great heirloom string beans, and it was one of the most widely planted green bean varieties in the early 20th century. Its overall strong characteristics have kept it in production today.

Perhaps one of the most well-recognized pole beans is Kentucky Wonder, known before 1864 as Texas Pole. It was introduced as Kentucky Wonder in 1877 by James J.H. Gregory of Marblehead, Massachusetts. Vines are medium in height, typically around 5 to 6 feet. The grayish-green long pods ripen in about 60 days.

One of my favorite pole beans is Cherokee Trail of Tears, a tall, vigorous pole bean with 6-inch fruits. If you don’t mind setting up poles, this variety is well worth growing. The pods can become streaked with purple and eventually will turn entirely purple as the seeds ripen to black. In the green bean stage, they are excellent eating. This bean is said to have been carried by the Cherokee in their forced removal in 1838 from the Carolinas to Oklahoma.

Lazy Wife, a white cranberry because of its white seeds, is an old heirloom known from the early 19th century. It is a late producer of 5- to 6-inch tasty pods, which are stringless, thus requiring no work in preparation — perfect for lazy wives — hence the name. This variety is probably best suited for warmer climates due to its late ripening.

A whole world of heirloom pole and bush green bean varieties is out there, some stringier than others, some developed later. All are approachable in the veggie garden, even for the greenhorn. But be prepared, once the beans start producing, it might be tough to keep them harvested!